Whether it be in the form of a stand-up comedian, an artist, poet, musician, or filmmaker, I love a good maverick. The true individual refusing to waver, refusing to pander to the rules of others, is a counter-culture all to his, or her, self.
The Warrior Soul frontman may well appear to be more prolific in the art rather than music world these days, but that would be doing the guy a major disservice: in the past few years he has released a new Warrior Soul album (2012′s ‘Stiff Middle Finger’), a follow-up to his lauded ‘Opium Hotel’ album (2011′s ‘Opium Hotel II’), an electro-acoustic solo record (‘Light Your Bonfires’, also 2011), and released the long-lost self-titled album from pre-WS outfit The Trial. Kory’s new album, ‘Payback’s A Bitch’, strips his rock back even further. You won’t believe it until you hear it, but he showcases a softer side, a commercially accessible side, a sidestep so severe that it’ll take you aback when you first put the virtual needle on the record.
The opening (and title) track doesn’t stray too far from what we already know, though – the album easing the listener in gently. Well, the first lyrics sung are “Pissed off!” so not that gently. “Been ripped off so many times, I’m gonna remind the assholes who did it,” KC sings over a cleaner rock ‘n’ roll riff than usual, the song, lyrically, aimed at those who have treated him like shit and taken the piss, musically, destined to cut swathes through smoky barrooms.
‘Freak’ is the first of two songs featured on the album written by Bobby Kennedy of the band, Acid (who has also played with David Johansen of the New York Dolls), and it fits the spirit of the record perfectly. Bass-led, with more of a classic glam stomp, the lyrics speak of not knowing where you are or where you’re heading, Kory sympathising with the words given the many projects that he finds himself involved in.
‘Devil’s Highway’ pulls Kory back to a more expected political stance with lyrics dedicated to our seemingly never-ending struggle against the might of the military industrial complex. At chorus time it’s as near as the album gets to prime Warrior Soul – think ‘Last Decade Dead Century’ – but the song’s core is one made up of loops and samples, more Nine Inch Nails than Four More Years. Don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking that Kory is about to fall back in line, though….With lyrics by Gary Hood (former guitar tech of Lou Reed), who had previously written for the original ‘Opium Hotel’ album, ‘What Good Is Goodbye’ is a pared-down barroom rock ‘n’ roll ballad that you would expect to hear Spike from The Quireboys singing to a room of waist-coated fans hanging on his every word.
Dedicated to good friends lost for stupid reasons, generally drug related, this song, complete with harmonica solo, finds Kory at his most honest….thus far. If the previous song surprises, prepare for the next to offer a knockout blow: ‘Get Down To Bizness’ finds Kory forgetting all about the last decade and strutting all the way back to the sick seventies. Channelling James Brown, Sly Stone, Huggy Bear, Black Belt Jones and Foxy Brown, this is one song that is gonna git you, sucka! As fun as it is fantastic, this is KC in a never-before-seen guise…and it works, and works well. Not satisfied with going vintage R ‘n’ B on our asses, Clarke throws out a would-be summer anthem for fun…in both senses of the word.
‘Hoezone’ speaks of superficial celebrity idiots yet, musically, pulses out like a twisted take on modern alternative dance music. If you heard this at a nightclub, or on the soundtrack to an MTV ‘reality’ show, you’d be forgiven for never realising that KC was at the helm. We’re used to Kory and his “FU,” just not with “N” at the end. ‘Jägermeister Machine’ belongs on a massive ad campaign for the German digestif, the drink of choice for many a rock ‘n’ roller. The song itself has its tongue firmly in its cheek (or possibly someone else’s) with Kory sounding not unlike Robbie Quine of The Barbarellatones as he spits out a crazed accent-heavy lyric ripping the piss out of being a wild and crazy guy in Berlin. Musically, the song is a brooding take on dark electro; lyrically, it’s a side splitter. “I love singing for you guys,” says Clarke before ‘The Last Hand’ eases its way out of the speakers.
This is Spike and The Quireboys by way of the Faces again, another slow-burner set to stun….for wholly different reasons to the usual Kory Clarke output, but if you think this is subtle then the closing song, ‘Meet Me In Las Vegas’, will break your heart. Written in Nashville over margaritas and a two year period, this song is the nearest this rock ‘n’ roll mofo has ever gotten to a proper love song and, with its piano and string section, it stings the senses: disbelief possibly reigns, but, ultimately, you’ll realise that this warrior can also pour his heart out in the direction of the one that cares as well as tear it out in objection at the ones who don’t.
Recording in Porto with producer and multi-instrumentalist Andre Indiana and his wife, singer/songwriter Monica Ferraz has worked wonders for Kory Clarke. Ambitious ideas have been fully captured, experiments pushed to their boundaries: the resulting long player one of the finest you’ll hear all year…for absolutely none of the reasons that you expect going into it. Other than Kory Clarke doing whatever the fuck he wants…and getting away with it. Again.
1. Payback’s A Bitch
3. Devil’s Highway
4. What Good Is Goodbye
5. Get Down To Bizzness
7. Jaegermeister Machines
8. Rock n’ Roll Genocide
9. The Last Hand
10. Death And Taxes
11. Meet Me In Las Vegas